On Inference to the Best Explanation as the Ultimate Theological Standard

On Inference to the Best Explanation as the Ultimate Theological Standard

Posted on:Feb 22 2011
Captured by:David J

I applaud the work of scientists like Arthur Peacocke, who are attempting to reconcile their faith with their profession (pardon the pun). Peacocke argues for an approach to theology that rest upon IBE (inference to the best explanation), sometimes referred to as abduction (Here I resist the pun). My concern is that the notion of subjecting theology to the IBE criterion defines the rational grounds for which Peacocke bases his plea for the IBE method. He offers a five point criteria: (1) comprehensiveness, (2) fruitfulness, (3) general potency, (4) internal coherence, and (5) elegance. While these are worthy characteristics, their use as THE criterion implies a misunderstanding of the unique thought category occupied by the principle subject of theology (the ultimate) — It would be hard to fit the paradox of the incarnation into a model justified by IBE. And even if one could, the problems with this criterion only proliferate.

Indeed, the very nature of the IBE criterion perpetuates a misunderstanding of ultimate authority. Ultimate authority is the ultimate criterion and thus cannot be subjected to another without being supplanted by the same. If we subject God to reason, then it is reason which becomes our God. Peacocke argues that using IBE makes using our theology more persuasive, but theology cannot be formed on the basis of its appeal. Consensus does not equal causation.

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